Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
Responds to COVID-19 (Updated 4/2/2020)

The University is actively working on contingency plans as operations change to manage the impact of COVID-19 on our community. Updates on the University’s response to COVID-19 are continuously provided on UNC’s Coronavirus Updates page.

Key Takeaways for UNC Researchers

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research will host weekly Q&A sessions for faculty on Mondays at 3:00 p.m.

  • Zoom details and meeting link are here. Onyen login required.
  • All participants will be muted, so please submit any questions you have in advance to VCR@unc.edu.
  • If time allows, additional questions may be submitted on the Zoom chat.
  • Researchers are asked to join using computer audio and not call in separately due to limited capacity.
  • If joining by cell phone, participants should link their audio session to the computer session by inputting their participant code at the beginning of the session.
  • Recording of the March 25 Q&A session can be found here.
  • The University has reduced operations and limited access to campus; however, research activity continues to be conducted remotely by faculty and staff.
  • The OVCR’s research support offices remain open and operating remotely to provide full support to the research enterprise.
  • Lab-based research has been restricted to “critical research activities.” All labs and cores not engaged in “critical research activities” are to ramp down their operations by Wednesday, March 25. Detailed guidance is below.
  • Essential services to laboratory buildings are expected to be maintained during the period of reduced operations. This includes AirGas deliveries.
  • Only individuals designated by UNC HR as mandatory will be allowed on campus for the foreseeable future.  Non-mandatory employees needed to assist in lab or core ramp-down are permitted on campus for that purpose through Wednesday, March 25.  Non-mandatory employees may continue to work remotely.
  • NIH, NSF, and DoD have released guidance permitting flexibility during the COVID-19 situation. Specifically, NIH is permitting salaries to continue to be charged to grants even if there is a work stoppage caused by the pandemic. NIH and other agencies will also permit travel costs to be charged if the travel was disrupted and costs cannot be refunded.
  • Human subjects research visits (involving direct contact) should be postponed unless the visit provides immediate benefit to the health or well-being of the participant.
  • The Division of Comparative Medicine will continue to provide care and support for research animals. Non-essential experiments should be delayed until services can resume normally. If the COVID-19 event worsens and DCM staff are significantly reduced, only basic services will be provided.
  • The Office of Human Research Ethics will continue to receive and review protocols normally and full-board meetings will also proceed on schedule.
  • The Office of Animal Care and Use will continue to receive and review protocols normally and IACUC board meetings will also proceed on schedule.

To manage the impact of COVID-19, UNC-Chapel Hill has reduced operations and limited access to campus. Research, however, is encouraged to be conducted remotely to enable the UNC research enterprise to continue its important work.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research is leading the effort to ensure research administration functions remain available to our research community during this fluid situation. We are actively monitoring the status of the pandemic, measures being taken by our federal sponsors, and conditions affecting the research here at the University. Our goal is to enable UNC faculty and researchers to continue their work while taking the necessary steps to ensure safety of employees, students, and the public.

The links on this site provide internal guidance, FAQ’s, and policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic from offices supporting UNC’s research enterprise. We have also collected links to guidance and information from the federal government and our research sponsors.

Specific questions about operations during the outbreak should be directed to the staff in the relevant research administration offices. These offices are open and continue to serve our researchers. You may also submit questions to the vcr@unc.edu. We will provide further guidance and direction as more information becomes available.

This information is a part of the University’s overall response to COVID 19. For full details of the University’s response and how it could affect you, your staff, or your lab, visit the UNC-Chapel Hill Coronavirus Updates page.

For PIs and researchers with laboratory-based research, we are moving to permit only critical research activities in our labs and cores between now and March 31st. PIs and researchers should be prepared for the possibility that this restriction will continue beyond March 31.

For purposes of lab-based research, critical research activities are defined as either

  1. Activities that are directly related to COVID-19 or,
  2. Activities that: (a.) would be impossible to restart; (b.) could not be restarted without a significant investment of time; (c.) would require significant financial resources to be restarted, or (d.) represent extremely time-sensitive and critical graduate student experiments required to ensure graduation during this calendar year.

Any lab-based research or core activity that does not meet the definition provided above should be ramped down, curtailed, suspended, or delayed as expeditiously as possible.

If you feel your laboratory, core or research work meets the above definition of “critical activity,” please complete this Critical Activity Exception Request Form to explain the nature of your activity. These requests must be submitted via email to vcr@unc.edu no later than Thursday, March 19th at 5 p.m. and will be reviewed promptly to determine if the activity can be approved to continue. Keep in mind that only the minimum number of individuals required to maintain the critical activity must be listed and designated as “mandatory” and that all facilities must adhere to CDC guidance prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people at any point. Please identify the faculty, staff, postdocs and/or graduate students who are mandatory personnel. Guidance on designating mandatory employees can be found in the UNC Pandemic and Communicable Disease Emergency Policy.

Many labs and cores that are not engaged in “critical research activities” will still require critical services to be maintained (e.g., periodic gas cylinder replacement). Such facilities must designate at least one individual as a mandatory employee to be periodically onsite if needed for such purposes. Further, we have confirmed that air cylinder vendors (e.g., AirGas and ARC3) will continue to service our labs. Please note that basic building systems and services for laboratory buildings will also remain operational.

If the activity in your lab or core does not meet the definition of “critical research activity” listed above, please review this UNC Laboratory Ramp Down Checklist to consider what you need to do to discontinue safely the activity in your facility. We recognize that labs and cores ramping down research may still require a limited number of individuals to come to campus to assist with ramp-down activities. Employees involved in ramp-down do not need to be designated as mandatory; however, ramp-down activities must be completed by Wednesday, March 25.

The Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) is open and its staff continue to support researchers at UNC.

COVID-19 FAQs for this office are under development based on inquires being received from the research community.

The Office of Human Research Ethics and Office of Clinical Trials are open and able to support researchers at UNC.

Clinical research that provides an immediate benefit for the health and well-being of a participant should continue; however, going forward, this work will be subject to guidance and direction from UNC Health. The UNC Health coronavirus website should be consulted for direction regarding such research. 

The COI Program is open and its staff continue to support researchers at UNC.

The individual COI Committees will meet remotely as needed and the COI Chairs continue to assess the expedited reviews. Reports or certifications to sponsors such as organizational COI or FCOI reports are continuing to be processed and submitted as needed.

COVID-19 FAQs for this office are under development based on inquires being received from the research community.

FAQs for faculty and staff on human resources issues during the COVID-19 outbreak are being provided through the UNC Office of Human Resources.

As specific guidance from funding agencies is developed, this list will be updated.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

USDA – National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Department of Defense (DoD)

Department of Energy (DoE)

National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)

COGR Resources

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Council on Governmental Regulations (COGR)